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If the Shoe Fits
How to Find the Perfect Pair of Running Shoes for You
You probably own a pair of running shoes. Or, a pair of sneakers you run in. But how long have you had them? And how well, really, do they fit?
Finding a pair of shoes that really fits can not only make exercise more comfortable and enjoyable, but it can help you identify or address injuries you may have developed running. Shin splits, blisters and tendonitis can all benefit from proper fitting footwear.
“Finding the right shoe can be an essential piece of the puzzle to obtaining your goals,” says Steven Mayer, MD, a sports medicine physician at Northwestern Medicine. “I typically recommend that an active individual write down their goals and what they plan to use the shoes for.”
It’s also a good idea to date your shoes – or mark the box they came in, if you don’t want to write on them – and replace them after 400 or 500 miles. For regular runners, that will be about three or four months, but no more than six. When you reach the worn-out mark, don’t throw out your old shoes: the wear can help you or a sales specialist identify key parts about your running style that can guide you to the perfect shoe.
At the Shoe Store
Your miles are adding up and you’re in the market for a new pair of running shoes. Where you go is up to you, but the more specialized, the more expertise your salesperson can provide. Give yourself plenty of time at your shoe store of choice. You will want to dedicate enough time to try on about six pairs of shoes, wearing each pair long enough to really understand how they feel. To do so, make sure you’re moving around and even running in place in each pair. Some stores may even have treadmills for you for you to test-drive on.
Moreover, choose a few hours at the end of the day. Feet swell during the day, so shopping in the afternoon or evening can ensure your feet are at their largest, which will give you the most comfortable fit at all times. Similarly, wear or bring the type of socks you run or work out in as well as inserts, if you use them.
If you are a dedicated runner, you should be prepared to spend between $70 and $100 on a good pair of shoes. While this can be flexible, shoes have enough of an impact to be worth the expense. And the investment itself only underscores how important making sure your shoe is the right fit really is.
Finding a Good Fit
To do so, enlist help. The salespeople, particularly at specialty or brand name shoe stores, are very experienced in helping people find the right fit. This is where your old shoes can also come in handy – they will show the assistant your running patterns, which could help guide your next find. You can also bring your old shoes to a sports medicine physician or podiatrist before visiting the shoe store and they can advise you on what to look for a new a pair.
You should also get sized each time you’re shopping for new shoes. Your feet can change size and shape as well as flatten over time. Moreover, sizes are not totally consistent across brands and shoe types, so ensuring you’re starting in the right ballpark is key. Furthermore, it’s possible your feet are slightly different sizes. This makes it essential to always try on both shoes, and fit to the larger foot.
In addition to the evidence in your old shoes and sizing your foot day-of, your running profile can also provide insight into the right shoe for you.
Your running profile will be a combination of your activities (running, jogging, playing basketball), your average distance or time, the surface you run on (asphalt, dirt, gym, treadmill), your body type, and your age. It can also be dictated the specifics of your run – namely, how and where (outside the heel, inside at the forefoot) the foot comes into contact with the ground and whether you roll to the inside or outside of your foot when you run.
“There are significant differences between shoes that are good for simply walking versus finding a shoe for a short running race, or finding a shoe for a marathon,” explains Dr. Mayer. “Additionally, your type of foot structure can make a significant difference in determinining the ideal type of shoes or orthotics. For example, people with flat feet or high arches tend to do better with a more supportive shoe.”
The Specifics of Fit
In each pair you try on, run in place and at pace, noting how the shoe feels on contact, during transition and if anything rubs wrong. Moving in your shoe is important because when your foot makes contact, it can spread up to half an inch in length. The difference in a shoe size is only one third of an inch, so that spread can in fact impact fit.
In order to ensure you’re allowing for spread, don’t lace too tightly when you’re trying shoes on. If it helps, take the insole out first and see how your foot fits just on that. If your foot spills over the insole or if there’s no room to spare, the shoe itself will not fit well either.
As for what ‘fit’ feels like, a good fit should not squeeze the foot and the entire width of the foot should touch the base of the shoe. You should have about a thumb’s width of room between your toe and the front of the shoe. Your shoe should also fit comfortably through the middle and there should be little or no slipping at the heel.
“Picking out the correct shoe can mean the difference between developing a successful workout program or calling it quits,” says Dr. Mayer. “Northwestern Medicine has a multidisciplinary team of clinicians who can go through the best choices for you and develop a individualized plan based on your previous exercise experience, foot structure, past injuries, comfort, and future goals.”
Bought and Broken In
You’ve tried on a dozen shoes, quite literally put them through their paces, and you have a pair of new running shoes that you’re satisfied fit you perfectly. Don’t be concerned if on your first few runs, you find you’re getting blisters.
Even the best fitting shoes, whether they’re professionally fitted or a new pair of your tried and true fit, need a break-in period. Run in your new pair for no more than six miles for the first three or four runs. If you run every day, alternate when your wear your new pair. Even better, wear your running shoes around the home before running in them so the shoes can form to your feet before you use them at the next level.
If at any point during the break in process, your shoes feel uncomfortable, they may not be the right fit and you should consider finding a new pair. Find out about the return policy at your chosen store – many places are very accommodating, allowing you to ensure you’re not settling for a poor fit. Breaking in won’t resolve any comfort or fit problems, rather the process is meant to help prevent any future problems with injuries or strain.
Then, with your broken in, pair of perfect fit running shoes, there’s nothing left but resume your work. You may even want to train for a race.
source: Northwestern University – Northwestern Medicine